March 05, 2021

Pour-Over Wills Are Crucial to Trust-Based Estate Planning

If I have a trust do I still need a Will? In short, yes.

It is always advisable to have a Will.

If you have a Trust you should still have a Will. There are certain issues addressed in your Will that cannot be addressed in a Trust. Some of these issues include nominating a Personal Representative, nominating guardians for your minor children, and the handling of your final remains.

The Pour-over Will: a safety net for your Trust.

However, if you have a Trust your Will is structured a little differently. This kind of Will is called a “Pour-over Will.” Your Trust is ultimately responsible for distributing your assets, but a Pour-over Will serves an important function as a safety net. Any assets that are not properly titled to your Trust at the time of your death will be transferred to your Trust via your Pour-over Will.

These assets must go through Probate; however, they will ultimately end up titled to the Trust and be subject to the Trust’s instructions. Your Personal Representative (as nominated in your Pour-over Will) would be the party responsible for overseeing this process and hiring an attorney for Probate.

Avoid Probate. But if not, at least minimize it.

Ideally this safety net will not be utilized. Keeping up one’s Trust is an important but frequently overlooked process. It is easy to create a Trust and then years later forget to properly title new assets. For example, one could buy a new car or open a bank account and forget to list their Trust as the payable-on-death beneficiary.

Probate is never desirable and with appropriate planning can be avoided entirely. However, a Pour-over Will ensures that if minimal (or even substantial) Probate must occur, at least those assets will ultimately be distributed in the manner you have planned.


This article represents the opinion of the author and is intended for educational purposes. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor does it create an attorney-client relationship. One should always consult with an experienced attorney before making estate planning decisions.

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